By DAVID A. LIEB
Associated Press Writer
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A lawsuit filed Thursday accuses Gov. Matt Blunt of racial discrimination and abuse of power for firing a state janitorial contractor that employed illegal immigrants.
Blunt called the lawsuit "ludicrous" and defended his decision to cancel the contract of Sam's Janitorial Services and bar the company from state work.
About 25 company employees were arrested in a March 6 sting at a Jefferson City state office building by federal and state law enforcement officers. The lawsuit says just eight of those people were charged and only four have pleaded or been found guilty of possessing forged documents showing they could work in the United States.
The lawsuit seeks to reinstate nine canceled contracts, asks to reverse the company's ban from state work and requests an unspecified amount of money for damages.
It claims Blunt exceeded his gubernatorial powers when he terminated the contract and disqualified Sam's Janitorial from future state work.
It also alleges racial discrimination because Sam's Janitorial is owned by an African-born U.S. citizen and the state contract was subsequently given to B&G Cleaning, owned by white contractors. At that time, B&G Cleaning also employed three of the four people who ultimately were found guilty, the lawsuit says.
"That's ludicrous," Blunt responded when asked about the lawsuit at a Capitol news conference.
Blunt said he didn't know the race of the owner of Sam's Janitorial, K. Asamoah-Boadu, when he issued the executive order March 6 to cancel contracts with any companies found to be using illegal immigrants.
The lawsuit by Asamoah-Boadu, filed in Cole County Circuit Court, claims Asamoah-Boadu hired only those people who appeared to have proper work documents. It says he provided the Missouri State Capitol Police and the state Division of Purchasing and Materials Management with copies of Social Security and worker registration cards for each employee who was not a U.S. citizen.
The state "approved each and every employee," the lawsuit says, and did not notify him of any problems with the proposed workers.
In March, Blunt credited the state's manager of custodial operations for first noticing inconsistencies in the janitorial employees' work documents. Capitol Police were notified, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ultimately got involved in the investigation.
On Thursday, Blunt insisted that Sam's Janitorial Services had employed illegal immigrants "in a very negligent way."
"This wasn't one or two people that might have slipped through the cracks of employment verification; this was a large portion of his work force," Blunt said. "I am confident that we have taken the appropriate action, the sort of action that Missouri taxpayers expect and deserve their government to take."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)